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					        Baltic Language and Integration Network (BLaIN)
            Third Workshop, on ‘Language and Identity’
                        University of Tallinn, Estonia
                             10 - 12 June 2005

Conference Report
The third in a series of workshops, held in the Baltic countries as part of the
British Academy supported Baltic Language and Integration Network (BLaIN;
<http://www.blain-online.org>), considered the central themes of language
and identity in the Baltic countries and further afield post EU enlargement.


The keynote talk, on        „Language Use and Identity Construction in a
Multilingual European Context‟, was by Guus Extra, Director of Babylon, the
Centre for Studies of the Multicultural Society at Tilburg University in the
Netherlands. His basic premise was that Europe‟s identity is to a great extent
determined by cultural and linguistic diversity. Referring to the parallel
processes of internationalisation and globalisation, he illustrated how both
convergence and divergence of multilingualism are taking place across
Europe. The former is explained by the use of English as a lingua franca for
international communication, the latter occurs due to large-scale processes of
global migration and an increasing divergence (from the state language) of
the languages used by people in their own homes. He stated that, as a
consequence, Europeans are redefining their identity. Subsequently he
elaborated the themes of language use and identity construction from the
following perspectives: identity as a multiple and layered concept of linguistic
representation; individual versus group identity; ethnic, national, and
transnational identity; mutability of identity in terms of content, membership,
and saliency; the significance of language for the identification of multicultural
population groups; historically conditioned differences between Western
European and Baltic nation-states in language use and identity construction.
Pointing out particular validity issues that arise in approaches to ethnographic
research in terms of making generalisations, and to demolinguistic research in
terms of a (mis-) match between observed and reported data, he stressed the
need for a multidisciplinary approach in achieving a better understanding of
the fascinating domain of language use and identity construction in a
multicultural context.


The subsequent paper, on „Languages of the new member states in the
enlarged European Union‟, was by Ina Druviete (University of Riga, Latvia).
She focused on opportunities and challenges which newly accessed member
states are facing and presented her vision for future direction. Daiga Joma
(The State Language Commission, Riga, Latvia) spoke on „Factors
determining an individual‟s possession of a sense of national identity,
according to residents of Latvia‟. According to the findings from a recent
survey, responses to the question <Please arrange in the order of significance
the following factors which, in your opinion, determine an individual‟s
belonging to a certain nationality> produced „mother tongue‟ as the most
significant factor amongst Latvians, and „mentality‟ amongst speakers of
Russian. Factors such as the place of birth, permanent place of residence,
and language used for daily communication are reported to have been
mentioned less frequently. „Language as identity in the case of cross-cultural
communication‟ was the subject of the contribution by Jānis Valdmanis
(University of Latvia, Riga), who focused on cultural differences between
speakers from different language communities.


The paper by Ülle Rannut (Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia) was entitled
„Impact of the dispersal policy on Russian-speaking children in Southern- and
Central Estonia‟. Results from her research on attitudinal differences of
Russian children living separately from the mainstream population (as in Ida-
Virumaa or Harjumaa) when compared to those dispersed among the host
population (as in the other 13 counties of Estonia) seems to support the
positive impact of the dispersal policy. Mart Rannut (Tallinn University, Tallinn,
Estonia) spoke on „(Human) Language Technology Dimension (LHT) in the
Baltic Language Policies‟. He advocated that, whilst LHT serves as a rapidly
expanding domain of the language environment for expedient communication
and inter-cultural exchange, it is also an industry-driven domain that is
accountable to the needs of the major languages. Financial support and a
positive research environment are needed so that services can be sold over
language barriers and to port knowledge/expertise between languages.


Two Round Tables were held as part of this Workshop, on „Language and
Identity‟ (chaired by Mart Rannut), and on „Regional Languages in the Baltic
countries‟ (chaired by Karl Pajusalu, University of Tartu, Estonia). Below is a
short summary of the discussions:

Language and Identity
From the outset it was agreed that the issues surrounding language and
identity are very complex. Identity changes occur at a much slower rate
compared to those in social economics. The idea of „attitudinal delay‟ was
proposed to describe that it takes time to shift our real identities according to
the cultural constructs around us. In essence, the debate revolved around
premordial and constructive conceptions of identity. It was proposed that a
combination of both approaches should be aimed at in relevant studies. The
terms of reactive versus linear identity were also discussed, as was the basic
argument that identity can be defined through the concept of boundary. It was
held that boundaries can function either to relate internal entity to the external
reality, initiating a process of identification, or else to defend internal entity
from the external reality, hence leading to processes of differentiation from the
external world. These identity issues can provide vital clues to the
understanding of language behaviour in multilingual societies, but they also
play a key role in the operationalisation of the processes of integration,
assimilation   and   segregation,   which    in   itself   needs to   involve   an
interdisciplinary approach.


Regional languages in the Baltic countries
Discussions revolved around the status of the regional variants Võru/Võru-
Setu in Southern Estonia, Latgalian in Eastern Latvia and Samiogtian
(Žemaičių) in North-Western Lithuania, which were all held to be „in-between
dialect and language‟. In Estonia, the Bureau for Lesser used Languages has
been newly established, and Võru/Võru-Setu are members. Võru is taught as
a language in 20 schools. On the whole it was argued that the Setu, being
orthodox and coming from a different cultural background, have a different
mentality from the Võru. In Lithuania, linguists tend to classify Žemaičių and
Aukštaičių as dialects, not regional languages; it was in fact held that some
linguists are concerned about using the term „regional language‟. The
Žemaičių people are thought to be completely different from the Aukštaičių,
both in terms of language codes (including non-verbal communication,
distance, face expressions, and body language) and sub-cultural background.
In Latvia, the main focus is placed on the co-existence of Latvian and
Russian, and dialects do not enjoy high prestige.

Throughout the Baltic countries there are various models of, mainly, Russian-
(and in Lithuania also Polish-) medium schools. The languages of the
indigenous minorities (Germans, Swedes, and Jews) are taught as school
subjects. Tartar, Romani, and Yiddish on the other hand are “shelter
languages”, which can be learnt at Sunday school.

Discussions also focussed on the term „integration‟ and how it is related
(arguably as a two-way process) to the nation state.


The first BLaIN Workshop, on „Language and Social Processes in the Baltic‟,
took place at the University of Vilnius, Lithuania, on the 15th - 18th June 2003.
The second BLaIN Workshop, on „Baltic Language Policies in an Enlarged
EU‟, was hosted by the University of Riga, Latvia, on 21-23 May 2004. A final
international interdisciplinary open conference will be held at the Vytautas
Magnus University of Kaunas, Lithuania, on 12 - 14 May 2006. The theme is:
„Language, Diversity and Integration in the Enlarged EU: Challenges and
Opportunities‟. Further information and an online registration form can be
obtained from the website <www.vdu.lt/LTcourses>.

                                                        Gabrielle Hogan-Brun
                                                 BLaIN Director & Co-ordinator

				
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